“What happens behind the curtains?”: ICU nurses’ experiences of post mortem care

The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of intensive care nurses performing post mortem care on patients who had died in an intensive care unit at a private hospital in Cape Town. The study further sets out to identify educational needs and to offer recommendations that may address these needs for this sample of nurses | Intensive and Critical Care Nursing

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Findings: Safeguarding the integrity and physical appearance of the dead body was the major finding and of the utmost priority for the participants in this study. Regardless of how the nurses felt about death, providing professional and quality care to the dead body and the family was seen as significantly important.

The nurses, whilst performing post mortem care, experienced detachment from various relationships. This comprised of the nurse detaching him/herself professionally and emotionally from the dead patient, the family and him/herself from the death experience.

This ‘unspoken’ experience of thanatophobia became apparent when the nurses were confronted by the reality of their own deaths.

Conclusion and recommendations: In a technological society, where answers to many questions can be pursued through science, understanding the experience of death, as opposed to dying, may be logically incomprehensible. Death remains one of the most traumatic events experienced by the patient and their family, and in some instances nurses themselves.

The study has drawn attention to the nurses’ experiences and in doing so; the emotional and educational needs have been identified, and in part, pedagogical offerings are recommended.

Full reference: de Swardt, C. & Fouché, N. (2017) “What happens behind the curtains?” An exploration of ICU nurses’ experiences of post mortem care on patients who have died in intensive care. Intensive and Critical Care Nursing. Published online: June 05, 2017

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Parents’ experience of a follow-up meeting after a child’s death in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit

Brink, H.L. et al. Intensive and Critical Care Nursing. Published online: 12 August 2016

Objective: ‘To identify parents’ experience of a follow up meeting and to explore whether the conversation was adequate to meet the needs of parents for a follow-up after their child’s death in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Design and setting: Qualitative method utilising semi-structured interviews with six pairs of parents 2–12 weeks after the follow-up conversation. The interviews were held in the parents’ homes at their request. Data were analysed using a qualitative, descriptive approach and thematic analysis.

Findings: Four main themes emerged: (i) the way back to the PICU; (ii) framework; (iii) relations and (iv) closure.

Conclusion: The parents expressed nervousness before the meeting, but were all pleased to have participated in these follow-up meetings. The parents found it meaningful that the follow-up meeting was interdisciplinary, since the parents could have answers to their questions both about treatment and care. It was important that the staff involved in the follow-up meeting were those who had been present through the hospitalisation and at the time of the child’s death. Parents experienced the follow-up meeting as being a closure of the course in the PICU, regardless the length of the hospitalisation.

Read the abstract here